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Residential building permits slip in June

Capital region's non-residential permits fall even more: StatsCan

Residential construction intentions in Greater Victoria dipped significantly in June. But through the first six months of the year, the region has actually seen signs of more building than in 2011, according to numbers released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.

Residential building permits totalling $29.8 million were taken out in June, down from $38.9 million in May and well off the $56 million in permits issued in June of last year. However, through the first six months of this year, a total of $251 million in permits had been issued - a 7.2 per cent increase from the first six months of last year.

Like the rest of the country, the bulk of the bad news was on the non-residential side of the ledger.

Non-residential construction permits issued in Greater Victoria in June totalled $11.5 million, down from $40 million in May and $33 million in June of last year.

Through the first six months of this year the story was much the same with non-residential permits totalling $85 million, a 30 per cent drop from the $120 million issued over the first half of 2011.

Across the country, contractors took out $2.5 billion worth of permits in the nonresidential sector, down 12.3 per cent, with the decrease concentrated in the institutional sector, particularly in B.C. and Alberta.

The total value of residential and non-residential permits in Victoria was down only 4.3 per cent over the first half of this year - $336 million this year compared with $351 million in 2011.

The value of building permits fell in 22 of the 34 census metropolitan areas in June, with Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton showing the largest declines.

Across the country, Statistics Canada reported residential construction intentions remained robust in June despite an overall decline in building permits, largely due to reduced activity in the government sector.

Overall, building permits declined a less-thanexpected 2.5 per cent to $6.8 billion in June, only partly reversing the 7.1 per cent jump of the previous month.

But almost all the loss was due to a 54.9 per cent tumble in institutional building intentions to $519 million, partly taking back the 72 per cent gain in May.

That drop-off was concentrated in steep declines for government buildings in B.C. and for medical facilities in Alberta, the agency said.

The big surprise was that residential construction intentions - the backbone of the construction industry - remained expansive.

Residential building permits rose for the second consecutive month to 4.2 per cent to $4.4 billion in June, with Ontario leading the way with a 18.3 per cent increase. For the year, residential construction is up 15.8 per cent.

"That was certainly a bit of surprise," said economist Peter Buchanan of CIBC World Markets, noting that recent headlines had pointed to a cooling in the housing market.

"This would seem to suggest that residential construction added to growth in the second quarter and probably the third quarter as well."

Last week, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported sales of previously owned properties dropped 18.4 per cent in July from a year earlier, while the Toronto board said sales had slipped 1.5 per cent during the same period, with condo sales falling 10 per cent.

Buchanan said all indicators point to a softening on the residential side as well going forward, given that household debt is at record levels and that tighter mortgage rules that went into effect last month have not had time to impact the system.